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Frigidity: what is it? Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

The term frigidity is a term that refers, in everyday language, to an absence or a decrease in pleasure during sexual intercourse or sometimes to sexual dissatisfaction.

In this context, frigidity can therefore correspond to:

  • an absence of orgasm, or anorgasmia
  • Lack of sexual desire (one speaks of hypoactive sexual desire disorder ), anaphrodisia or loss of libido.

There are, of course, many degrees and manifestations of frigidity, ranging from the total absence of sensations during sexual intercourse to the apparent contradiction between the intensity of desire and the poverty of physical sensations, as well as pleasure. “Normal” but not leading to orgasm.

The term frigidity is traditionally used to describe a female disorder, although the absence of sexual pleasure or desire may also affect men. It is no longer used by doctors because of its pejorative connotation and a lack of precise definition.

This sheet will be devoted more specifically to anorgasmia in women, the lack of desire being treated in the card low libido.

Anorgasmia also exists in humans, but is rarer.

We first distinguish:

  • primary  anorgasmia : the woman has never had an orgasm.
  • secondary or acquired anorgasmia : the woman has already had orgasms, but has no more.

We can also differentiate :

  • total anorgasmia: the woman never has an orgasm by masturbation or in a couple, and no orgasm triggered by clitoral or vaginal stimulation.
  • couple anorgasmia where the woman can get orgasms alone, but not in the presence of her partner.
  • Coital anorgasmia: The woman does not have an orgasm during the movements of the penis back and forth in the vagina, but she can get orgasms by clitoral stimulation alone or with her partner.

Finally, anorgasmia can be systematic or occur only in certain situations: we talk about situational anorgasmia.

It must be emphasized, however, that the absence or scarcity of orgasms is by no means a disease or an anomaly. This becomes problematic only if it is embarrassing for the woman or the couple. Note also that the very definition of orgasm is often vague. A study published in 2001 listed no less than 25 different definitions!

Who is affected?

Clitoral orgasm is known to more than 90% of women, although it is not necessarily systematic at the beginning of sex life and requires a time of discovery to women who have not practiced masturbation before their first relationship sexual.
Vaginal orgasm is rarer, since only about a third of women experience it. It is triggered by the only movements of the penis back and forth. Another third of women get vaginal orgasm only if their clitoris is stimulated at the same time. And one-third of women never experience vaginal orgasm.
In other words, the organ of the female orgasm is the clitoris, much more than the vagina.

We know that on average, women have orgasm every other time during sexual intercourse knowing that some are “polyorgasmic” (about 10% of women) and can chain several orgasms, while others have more rarely , without necessarily feeling frustrated. Indeed, pleasure is not synonymous with orgasm.

Orgasm disorders could affect a quarter of women, but there are few large-scale epidemiological studies documenting the situation.

One of them, the PRESIDE study, conducted by questionnaire in the United States with more than 30,000 women, estimated the prevalence of orgasm disorders at about 21% .

Secondary anorgasmia would however be much more common than primary anorgasmia, which affects 5 to 10% of women.

More generally, sexuality disorders would reach about 40% of women. They include low vaginal lubrication, discomfort and pain during intercourse, decreased desire and difficulty reaching orgasm .

Causes of Frigidity

The physiological and psychological mechanisms that trigger orgasm are complex and far from fully understood.

The causes of anorgasmia are therefore also complex. The ability of a woman to reach orgasm depends mainly on age, educational level, religion, personality and your social position .

At the beginning of the sexual life, it is perfectly normal not to get orgasm, the sexual functioning needing a time of learning and adaptation sometimes relatively long.

Several factors can then come into play and alter this ability, including:

  • The woman’s knowledge of her own body,
  • Partner’s experience and sexual skills,
  • A history of sexual trauma (rape, incest …)
  • Depressive or anxiety disorders
  • The use of drugs or alcohol
  • Taking certain medications (especially antidepressants or antipsychotics that can delay orgasm)
  • Cultural or religious beliefs surrounding sex (guilt, “dirtiness”, etc.).
  • Couple difficulties
  • An underlying disease (spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis …)
  • Certain periods of life, accompanied by hormonal upheavals, especially pregnancy and menopause.

However, pregnancy, especially during the second trimester, can also be very favorable to female sexuality and especially to orgasm. This moment is sometimes called “the honeymoon of pregnancy” and it is known that some women discover their first orgasm during a pregnancy, often in the second trimester.

Evolution and possible complications

Anorgasmia is not a disease in itself. It is a functional disorder that becomes problematic only if it is a source of discomfort, discomfort or distress for the person who complains or for his partner.

Women who complain of anorgasmia can develop depression and anxiety. That’s why it’s important to talk about it, especially as solutions exist.

Symptoms of Frigidity

Anorgasmia, or more generally the “disorders of orgasm”, refers to the persistent or recurrent difficulty in reaching orgasm, which may never be reached or simply delayed, despite a phase of normal sexual arousal.

This situation can lead to symptoms such as frustration, psychological distress, embarrassment, depression …

However, not reaching orgasm with each report is not “abnormal”, on the contrary, the feeling of sexual dissatisfaction obviously depends on the expectations each woman has for her sexuality. According to certain diagnostic criteria (DSM-IV), a woman who can reach orgasm while masturbating but not during a relationship, for example, does not suffer from “orgasm disorders”.

People at risk for Frigidity

Younger women have more difficulty reaching orgasm, either during sex or masturbation, than more experienced women.

However, around and after menopause, hormonal changes can influence sexuality, lower desire, and increase the risk of pain during intercourse (dyspareunia) and anorgasmia.

Risk factors

Several factors can promote anorgasmia:

  • a low level of education. The most educated women have more opportunities to reach orgasm, especially by masturbation, than women who have not done much study
  • very religious people are more likely to suffer from orgasm disorders, because of a less “liberated” and more liberated vision of sexuality
  • being unhappy in her relationship or in her life obviously has a negative influence on the ability to have orgasms
  • Fear of pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases can also alter the pleasure
  • An unresponsive or selfish partner who does not care about the pleasure of his partner or does not know how to awaken his pleasure.


Can we prevent frigidity?
In women suffering from secondary anorgasmia, it is recommended to practice perineal reeducation, a muscular perineum being essential for the onset of orgasm.

A healthy and harmonious relationship and a good balance of life are undoubtedly important factors for a satisfying sex life.

To reserve time for one’s partner, to privilege the communication within the couple and to try to maintain an active sexuality are effective measures to restore the desire and the pleasure if they become dulled.

Medical treatments of Frigidity

There is currently no medical treatment to help women suffering from anorgasmia. None of the drugs tested in different clinical trials was more effective than placebo. However, much research is underway to try to develop effective treatments for female libido and pleasure.

The treatment of anorgasmia, when it is perceived as problematic by the woman or the couple, is based for the moment on psychological and behavioral measures. This treatment is not very well codified, but there are techniques that have been proven.

A consultation with a sex therapist or a sex therapist will provide an update on the situation and possible measures to take.


Sexotherapy is first and foremost the practice of bodybuilding the perineum. These are the same exercises that are recommended for women after childbirth to find a good perineal musculature.
For women suffering from total anorgasmia, the focus is on the pursuit of clitoral orgasm, which is easier to achieve, alone or with their partner.

Cognitive and behavioral therapy

Cognitive and behavioral therapy to treat anorgasmia includes reducing anxiety related to sexuality, increasing letting go in intimacy, and offering to practice certain exercises, including body exploration exercises and possibly of masturbation. The goal is to reclaim his body until trying to achieve orgasm alone, with different “techniques”, identifying the areas and gestures most likely to provide pleasure.

The idea is to eliminate any anxiety related to the presence of the partner such as performance anxiety, among others.
Generally, the process begins with a visual exploration of the body (with a mirror) and information on the anatomy of the female genitals.

Once the woman manages to reach orgasm alone, her partner can be included in the exercises.

This “treatment” is based on several studies that have shown that the vast majority of women were able to achieve orgasm through clitoral masturbation and more easily than during sexual intercourse.

Attention, when a woman is put off by masturbation exercises, do not insist, at the risk of causing a blockage rather than change the situation. For some women, it is better to practice exercises with the partner.

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